Hoffman, Wayne. “An Older Man”, Bear Bones, 2015.
The Sequel to “Hard”
We met Moe Pearlman in Wayne Hoffman’s “Hard” (one of the first books I ever reviewed) when he was in his twenties and now he comes back to us when he is “older”. Now he is 42 (an interesting take on “older” that probably relegates me to being dead). Moe is off to Provincetown for Bear Week and his adventures there fill this book. We read as Moe moves through the years from “younger” to “older”, from a guy that everyone once wanted to being an “older” guy who is still wanted because he is now “older”.
Moe Pearlman is now over forty, overweight, and going gray. Having once been a younger guy who went for “older” men, he feels “different”. . He still hopes he’ll find a hot older guy and have an intense summer romance. His ex-lover Gene and Gene’s new boyfriend Carlos are with him providing company but Moe really feels “older” when those men that he finds interesting are looking at the younger guys and this really gets him down.
Having my own birthday this week and thus becoming a year “older” this was the perfect book for me to read (plus I read it the week before Bear Week in Ptown”. I love Hoffman’s look at aging and loneliness and found it to be so true for us “older” gay men.
While this is a sequel, it does not really begin where “Hard” stopped and it is not necessary to read “Hard” to enjoy “An Older Man”. Moe’s sex life has not changed and as Hoffman says, “Moe is a cocksucker. He’s always going to be a cocksucker” and he approaches “sex as a very affirming vocation—as something he really loves, a core part of his life that brings him pleasure”. He might not be looking for what he once did but his desires are the same as they were when he was younger. He still goes after older men. Now that he is one of “them”, he understands what younger men think when they look at him. One thing has changed—he might still be looking for older but he notices younger men for the first time.
This did not just happen overnight; it took a while. When the younger Rudd goes after him, he realizes that this is not what he is looking for. In fact, Moe runs the other way; he thinks that Rudd is just too young for him. He also sees him as competition and that makes him insecure because he knows that the men he wants might look right past him for Rudd and, in fact, he thinks of Rudd as who he once was. What really hits home is when Moe sees guys choosing Rudd over him, he sees what he thinks will be his future and now he has to learn how to be an “older” gay man. The world is going to fill up with more Rudds. Moe needs to figure out how to be a forty-something gay man. When one is older, he has to learn new strategies. He also has to deal with his own insecurities about his body but then he realizes that as long as he is surrounded by other bears, it is quite okay to dance shirtless and so he does and feels liberated (body-wise, at least).
Let me say here that although this is a book about bears, it is also a book about self-acceptance and aging. Many of us do not want to face the fact that we, like everyone else, get older. Gay men tend to look at just two ages—young and old but there is also the generations that came before us and worked very hard so that we have the freedoms we have today. Many from the earlier generations have been lost to us through AIDS but we must never forget them and most of all remember that many of them gave their lives so that we could have ours. I remember while living in Israel, coming back to America one summer to learn that almost everyone I had been friendly in the gay community in New Orleans was gone. It was my generation that was hit so hard and decimated. Moe, on the other hand, is of the next generation and although he knew older men and had friends that died, AIDS did not really touch him directly. Yet he is also not of the generation that knows nothing of AIDS—he is in that in-between place where AIDS is still very real even though he was not directly touched by it.
Moe and his friends did not see their friends die but they did see gay men who beat the disease through new drugs treatment (some of those did eventually die). Moe and his friends have lived through the age of safer-sex and risk and they certainly have felt the anxiety that everyone feels knowing what could happen if someone has sex with the “wrong” person. In the ’90s, where “Hard” is set, people were trying to figure out where the risk is and what still puts someone in danger. Rudd’s generation, however, knows about AIDS from having learned about it in schools or from older friends while Moe actually has the memories of what the epidemic did to the community and not so much to individuals that he knew. There is no doubt that AIDS influenced Moe’s life, especially his sexually. Some may wonder why AIDS is even mentioned here and my answer is somewhat personal—I cannot imagine anyone today not considering what AIDS has done to our community and I cannot really imagine anyone writing a book today without some mention of it. We must never allow ourselves to forget that AIDS was our Holocaust and we are still feeling the effects today.
Moe is also somewhere between here and there sexually. His generation was one of cruisers and he still cruises, He also cruises via phone and computer, something he had not done before. In “Hard”, he went to bathhouses and dirty bookstores, to actual locales to meet men. Now, we no longer need actual places of meeting because we can do so virtually. Now we can cruise anywhere and at any time.
Moe has a methodological approach to sex. When he goes out looking for sex, he is very serious—he knows what kind of sex he wants and he knows when is the best time and place to find it. He also knows what he has to wear depending upon what he is looking for and what to take with him. Sure, it becomes second nature but there is a method. There is a lot of sex in the book but it seems to me that there is a reason for that. Sex shows us something about getting older. Moe’s libido is still quite strong now that he is in his 40s.
I could probably continue writing about “An Older Man” for pages but that isn’t fair to the reader or to Hoffman I want you to read this book. I used to tell my college students when we studied Byron’s poetry, for example, that we take the poem like a Thanksgiving turkey, pull it apart and lick the bones clean with our interpretations. What we say may have nothing to do with what the poet meant. What we have here are my opinions about what is written in “An Older Man”. Read Hoffman’s book and decide for yourselves. Personally, I loved it. It is fiction with a great deal of truth.